Ryan Moore achieved a first success in the Darley July Cup as he guided U S Navy Flag to an impressive all-the-way victory.
The three-year-old colt was one of five runners for the Ballydoyle yard of Aidan O’Brien but Moore was very much on right one – soon in the lead and never really looking like being headed in the QIPCO British Champions Series contest.
The Kevin Ryan-trained Brando, third in the July Cup last year, finished a length and three quarters behind in second with Fleet Review, another O’Brien challenger, and Sir Dancealot the next pair home.
Moore went straight to the front of the group that raced down the middle of the track and he turned all of his rivals away up the hill.
The son of War Front, winner of Middle Park Stakes and Dewhurst as a two-year-old, has been racing over a mile in recent starts but the drop back to sprinting brought out the best in him and it’s likely he will be kept at sprint trips from now on.
“What he did last year was unbelievable,” O’Brien said. “What threw us was that he was able to win a Dewhurst, after setting a strong pace and he nearly won an Irish Guineas, probably the toughest mile any horse can run, and he was absolutely out on his head in the final furlong but still kept trying, so he’s an unbelievable little horse to be doing that. He shouldn’t have been able to do that.
“We were hoping that he would put on a performance today and obviously we have our eye on the Everest Stakes in Australia, he’ll probably have a little rest now, he’s had a tough time, then we’ll train him for the Everest.
“Speed is his biggest attribute but heart is his next biggest, he never lies down and is an amazing horse.”
Ryan said of the gallant Brando: “We knew we had him in great shape and while we wanted to go to Royal Ascot, we just felt he was so good at Newmarket that we’d train it for this race and it nearly came off, didn’t it?
“It is a little bit gut-wrenching that it hasn’t, but I’m proud of him and we’ll try and win it next year.”
O’Brien also saddled the third home, Fleet Review (50/1), who was a three-quarters a length further back under Wayne Lordon.
The rider said: “I jumped well. I had a good position following Ryan [Moore, on US Navy Flag] and he took me all the way into the race. He stays well, he tries hard and he’s working his way into maybe getting a big race one day. He’s a fine horse and I’m delighted with the way he ran.”
David Elsworth was also thrilled with the run of Sir Dancealot, who was a head back in fourth under Gerald Mosse.
Elsworth said: “I wish I had a dozen like him. He’s easy to train, especially easier than some of the bad ones.”